Big Timber Creek/Mantua Creek Watershed
Big Timber Creek/Mantua Creek Watershed
The Big Timber/Mantua Creek Watershed covers parts of northern Gloucester and southern Camden counties. The two creeks and their tributaries flow through dozens of communities, draining into the Delaware River southwest of Camden.
Big Timber Creek is surrounded on three sides by acres of freshwater, tidal wetlands that are an important resource for many wildlife and plant species. The creek flows through 28 communities beginning in Washington and Winslow townships and ending in West Deptford in Gloucester County and Gloucester City in Camden County. The creek has nine tributaries, six major lakes and 25 waterway miles with the main stream forming the county line between Gloucester and Camden counties. Farmland and forest surround the headwaters, but are rapidly becoming suburbanized. The lower part of the creek, which is the most urbanized, is tidal and contains a large estuary that provides important habitat for wildlife.
Mantua Creek and its two major tributaries, Edwards Run and Chestnut Branch, drain over 50 square miles of Gloucester County. From its headwaters near Glassboro, Mantua Creek flows northwest for 18.6 miles to the Delaware River at Paulsboro. In its upper reaches, the creek flows through gently rolling, wooded terrain marked by a number of small lakes. Further downstream the creek flows through a relatively broad, flat valley which is part of the creek’s floodplain. It finally flows through low, tidal marshland from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Delaware River.
Only a few decades ago, a large part of the flood plain of Mantua Creek was rural, wooded and undeveloped. Much of the area was devoted to farming with scattered residential homes throughout the flood plain. However, much of the watershed has been developed in recent years. Development has been most concentrated near Pitman and downstream, where Mantua Creek passes through developed areas of Deptford, West Deptford and Mantua Townships. Further downstream, development of the flood plain increases in Paulsboro, where residential, commercial and industrial development can be found on or near flood plain land. This area is adjacent to low, tidal marshland that is susceptible to flooding from high water flowing down Mantua Creek.
Saving the Big Timber/Mantua Creek Watershed
The Big Timber/Mantua Creek Watershed provides habitat for cormorants, egrets, great blue herons, loons and osprey. Many species of fish are found in the creeks, including Atlantic shad and herring, largemouth and striped bass, yellow and white perch, American eel, carp, chain pickerel, channel catfish, sunfish and tiger muskie. Snapping, box and painted turtles are also found in the creeks, as well as freshwater clams and crayfish. Many wildflowers can be found in the area, particularly wetland species.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its regional preservation partners have protected some 180 acres of natural lands and natural resources in the Big Timber/Mantua Creek watershed.
In 1987, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recognized the Big Timber Creek as one of the most polluted water bodies in New Jersey. Over the last two decades much of the industry-caused pollution has been corrected and water quality has been improved in many areas, but the watershed continues to be threatened by the environmental impacts of development.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Old Pine Farm Natural Lands Trust have partnered since the 1990s and together created the Old Pine Farm Preserve, a 36-acre urban greenway in Deptford, which provides the community with an ideal place for passive recreation and nature study. Old Pine Farm is one of the few remaining natural and protected areas along the highly developed, tidal section of Big Timber Creek. The area features grassland savannas, hardwood forests and a thick maple swamp. We also worked with Deptford Township and the state Green Acres program to create the 18-acre Big Timber Creek Park in Deptford. Another noteworthy preserve is the 42-acre Andaloro Wildlife Management Area, also in Deptford Township.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the South Jersey Land and Water Trust have partnered since the 1990s, preserving the 46-acre Lodge Farm on the Mantua Creek in West Deptford Township, as a state Wildlife Management Area. Another noteworthy Mantua Creek project is the 34-acre Kammerer Farm, preserved as a municipal park. We are currently working to preserve an additional 112 acres of woodlands, meadows, ponds and streams along and near the Mantua Creek.
For more information on our work in the Big Timber/Mantua Creek Watershed project area, please contact Delaware Bayshore Regional Manager Francis Rapa at 856-823-1021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Michele S. Byers,